Weekend Travelogue: San Francisco

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About to start the trek up to Fort Mason to see the sun set over the Golden Gate.

Somehow, I’d managed to live in California for two years without visiting the City by the Bay, or even the Bay Area, for that matter, so I jumped at the chance recently to take a weekend trip to San Francisco with friends.

A friend of mine from back home in Oregon mentioned once that San Francisco was a happy medium between Oregon and Southern California; palm trees and nightlife and great shopping, but a little more greenery and a lot less pollution. And it’s true; San Francisco is quite different from any other major West Coast City.

Right off the bat, it was immediately clear that the public transportation is far better than Los Angeles. It’s also sunnier (if not quite warmer) than Seattle, more urban than Portland, and even more expensive than L.A. (which I honestly wasn’t sure was possible.) But once I got past the $40 overnight parking, $6 soy lattes (at a Starbucks!) and sneaky city taxes and fees that seemingly get slapped onto every purchase, I was able to have a truly incredible weekend in San Francisco.

The Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point

The Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point.

Now, I know many people who have left their hearts in San Francisco, so I don’t think I need to reiterate what’s already been said about all of the city’s virtues and must-see destinations. We ate bread bowls of chowder at the Fisherman’s Wharf, ventured to Ghirardelli Square for dessert, strolled around Union Square, took a trolley ride up and down the city hills, and paid a visit to the “Painted Ladies” of Full House fame. And of course, took countless tourist photos in front of the iconic the bridge.

Sure, at the end of the day, the Golden Gate Bridge is just a bridge, but there’s just something about it, I have to admit. We were able to catch a glimpse of it from both Fort Mason and Fort Point on two separate days, and I would honestly recommend both vantage points, though Fort Point offers you the most up-close-and-personal experience possible without actually driving over the bridge (which we didn’t do, as it runs north from the city and requires a toll to get back into San Francisco.)

As cliched as some of these destinations may be, I have to admit they’re time-tested for a reason; there isn’t a single activity we did in our three days in San Francisco that was the least bit underwhelming or disappointing. We really lucked out with beautiful weather, and nowhere we visited was excessively crowded, despite it being Memorial Day Weekend. There were, however, some highlights, which I highly suggest checking out for anyone planning a trip to SF anytime soon:

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The “Full House” houses (and a stunning cityscape) at Alamo Square.

Alamo Square: Home to the Painted Ladies, come to get up close and personal with the Victorian town homes made famous in the opening credits of Full House, and stay for the breathtaking 360 degree views of the city, stunning architecture and gorgeous sunset (if you arrive in the evening, as we did.) Golden Hour here was absolutely awe-inspiring and so peaceful for such an urban environment, with sunlight peeking through the weeping willows, couples picnicking on blankets, dogs running around the park, and twilight slowly enveloping the San Francisco skyline.

Fort Point: You know those great pictures everyone takes right in front of the Golden Gate Bridge? This is where they come for them. You can stand literally right under the bridge, or you can hike a short trail lined with wildflowers to reach that perfect photo op with the bridge, hills and sparkling bay in the background. A short hike down from the bridge, you’ll also find biking paths, a pier, a beach, and recreation area for picnicking and barbecuing. Fort Point was colorful, scenic, and nothing short of an urban oasis.

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Bi-Rite Market and Creamery (across the street) are must-do’s in San Francisco!

Bi-Rite Creamery: Bi-Rite Creamery was suggested as a can’t-miss by a foodie friend, and for such a hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop, it certainly has a sizable and loyal fan base. The line was out the door when we arrived just before closing around 9:30 pm, and with its fresh, artisan ice cream, tasty baked goods, and friendly staff, it isn’t hard to see why Bi-Rite is a hit with tourists and locals alike.

Twin Peaks: Head down Market Street and away from the city center to reach the best view in San Francisco: Twin Peaks. Up here, you can see for miles and miles, all the way down Market Street, to the Golden Gate Bridge, and everywhere in between. It’s truly breathtaking at any time of day, and proved to be the perfect way to end such a scenic three day jaunt to the City by the Bay.

View more of my San Francisco photography over on my Flickr.

Artists & Fleas Los Angeles

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It looks as though everything old is new again for college students today. From record players to high-waisted shorts, from music festivals to Tumblr and everywhere in between, vintage, and vintage-inspired, items are the trend of the moment.

“I think it’s just like, it’s the cool thing to have vintage now,” said vintage shopper Harlee Kocen, a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, who was wearing an embroidered jean jacket which once belonged to her dad. “This jacket’s held up for like, I don’t know since the ‘60s, and I have another jean jacket that’s starting to completely fall apart, it’s tearing everywhere, and I got it maybe two years ago.”

For some students, vintage items just seem to be of a higher quality than those made today.

“I guess real vintage is well-made and lasts in a way that temporary clothing does not,” said shopper Meredith Argenzio, a student at VCU. “Like we were talking about how Jeffrey Campbell shoes fall apart, how annoying is that?”

And for others, thrift shopping is all about the thrill of hunting down a great bargain and saving a little money, or is an accessible way to emulate the vintage vibes of celebrities and fashion icons.

“Vintage represents something cool,” said recent VCU graduate Diane Nguyen, whose entire outfit during her day shopping at Artists & Fleas was, coincidentally, vintage. “You go to Urban [Outfitters] and everything’s vintage looking, but then it’s like not even vintage anymore.”

DSC_9115Whether students find their vintage goods at more traditional second-hand shops such as Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul, at a new crop of curated, higher-end vintage stores and pop-up markets, or simply get their fix from vintage-inspired items at chain retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, this trend offers a little something for everyone.

“I’m always down to go and check out flea markets, I think they’re really cool, and growing up in New York it’s a really diverse and cultural experience, so I love coming to these kinds of things because I think it really represents that,” said USC sophomore Stephanie Artisakesian.

“Where I get my fashion, I guess like sense or style from, I guess honestly is from a lot of kids on campus as well as celebrities. I follow a lot of them on Instagram, like Kendall and Kylie Jenner will wear types of clothes like this and I’m sure they pay a bunch of money for it but you can find the same type of style at flea markets. I think a more vintage style is definitely ‘in’ in LA and New York, so that’s where I’ve kind of been around that and experienced that style and culture.”

DSC_9196Indeed, while thrifting is a common occurrence across the country, it’s seen a noticeable resurgence in the fashion hubs of New York and Los Angeles. LA’s Melrose and La Brea Avenues are scattered with dozens of carefully curated, celebrity-approved vintage stores such as Wasteland and American Vintage, and the city’s Arts District recently hosted the West Coast’s first Artists & Fleas Market, which originated in Brooklyn, NY. Here, shoppers browsed gently-used and vintage-inspired clothing, handmade jewelry, old records and books, vintage furniture, art and more, all while bobbing along to live music and sipping cold-brewed coffee and fresh smoothies.

“I definitely think that vintage is just the cool thing now,” said Kocen. “I think for a lot of people, at least for me, I don’t have the time to go shifting through racks and racks to find a good deal on something, so I’d much rather go to something like [Artists & Fleas] and have a nice vintage, curated selection.”

The Artists & Fleas Market ran for two days from May 17-18, but with the vintage trend showing no signs of slowing down, it’s safe to say that vintage shops and marketplaces will continue popping up across the country–and college students will continue to find style inspiration in decades past while pushing the vintage resurgence into mainstream fashion.

“Coachella is an example of that [vintage] style, which might seem pretty crazy to other people, but it’s almost normal now, and a lot of that stuff you can find in a flea market,” said Celina Frelinghuysen, a USC sophomore. “I just think it’s cool, how everything old is new again and fashionable, and just finding that way to put those pieces together to make it work.”